Chemical Compliance
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Transportation of Dangerous Goods in China
Jan 27, 2020
Bella Zheng
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Annual transport of dangerous goods in China is about 1.6 billion tons, ranking second in the world. The main modes of transport include waterways, roads, railways, airlines and pipelines. Compared with more developed countries, such as the United States or European Union, the management system of dangerous goods transport in China is far from perfect. A “Multi-department management system” is still used in China in which more than ten authorities are involved, including SAWS, PSB, AQSIQ, TDG, NRA, CAA, SPB, MEP, MOH, SAIC, NNSA etc. These authorities have developed corresponding management regulations according to their jurisdiction. However, due to the lack of a unified coordination mechanism among existing transportation laws and regulations, the whole TDG legislative system in China lacks a cohesive structure.


The definition of dangerous goods, also known as dangerous article or hazardous goods in different Chinese transport regulations is basically consistent, only differing in basic terminology. China adopts the definition in “UN Recommendations on the transport of dangerous goods-Manual of tests and criteria” (16 Revision), which defines dangerous goods as “substances and articles requiring specific protection that have such hazardous characteristics as explosivity, inflammability, toxicity, infectivity, corrosivity and radioactivity, and may cause personal injury, property damage or environmental pollution during transport, storage, production, sales, usage and disposal.【1】

Competent authority

Currently, there is no unified management regulations applicable to all modes of transportation in China, and unlike US, Canada or other developed countries, China also has no specialized agencies established for coordinating and managing the transportation safety of dangerous goods under various modes of transportation. Instead, each authority manages separately according to their responsibilities entrusted by Decree No. 591. The following is a simple diagram that analyzes the respective management scope of various ministries in the area of dangerous goods transport.

According to Decree No. 591, the safety supervision department is responsible for the comprehensive management of dangerous goods. National transportation authority is responsible for road/waterway transportation permits, the safety supervision of transportation vehicles and the qualification of road/waterway transportation enterprises/working staff. The national railway administration is responsible for the safety management of railway transportation for dangerous goods. The civil aviation administration is responsible for the management of the air transport of dangerous goods and the safety of air transport enterprises and their transport facilities. The postal administration shall be responsible for investigation on the delivery of hazardous chemicals. The Maritime Safety Administration is responsible for the safety management of hazardous chemicals loaded on ships and containers. The public security department is responsible for public safety management of hazardous chemicals, the issuance of licenses for the purchase of highly toxic chemicals and the issuance of road transport permits, and also regulates the safety of transport vehicles. The administrative department for industry and commerce is responsible for the issuance of the business license of the dangerous goods transport enterprise. In addition, special types of dangerous goods, such as radioactive goods, are specifically regulated by nuclear safety regulators. 【2】

Legislative system

The hazardous chemical management regulatory system in China is a multi-level system with large number of laws and regulations. In terms of marine and aviation transportation, international conventions and regulations are adopted directly, while in inland transportation, the international convention plays a role as a source of law. In the whole regulatory system, the “Regulations on the control over safety of hazardous chemicals” (State Council Decree No. 591) is the primary legal basis of the regulations of dangerous goods. The relevant departments have formulated the departmental regulations suitable for various modes of transport and its own management characteristics according to the duties entrusted by the Decree No.591. Various modes of transport have been centered on these regulations and have developed their own independent regulatory systems, including some specific or common technical standards.



Basic technical standards for transportation of dangerous goods in China

The latest five national standards amended by the Ministry of transport are:

    Other standards includes:

  • “Packing symbol of dangerous goods” GB 190-2009

  •  “Packaging-Pictorial marking for handling of goods” GB/T 191-2008

  •  “General specifications for transport packages of dangerous goods” GB 12463-2009

  •  “Chemical reagent Packaging and marking” GB/T 15346-2012

In addition to the general technical standards applicable to all modes of transport listed in section 4.1, each single mode of transport has its own regulatory system, the technical content of which is broadly consistent with the UN Model Regulations, but there are still differences.

Legislative system of dangerous goods transport by railway

At present, China has formed a relatively complete legislative system on the safety management of railway dangerous goods transport.【3】

The system is composed as follows:

  1. Department regulations

    • The main regulation on the railway transportation of dangerous goods is “Provisions on Supervision and Administration of Transport Safety of Railway Dangerous Goods”(MOT Order No.1-2015). The latest version of “Provision”, which published since 1st May 2015,was amended from 2008 version of Provision.

  2. Relevant standards

    • “List of Dangerous Goods by Rail”

    • “Safety code for inspection of packaging of dangerous goods transported by rail--General specifications”

    • “Safety code for the inspection of packaging of dangerous goods transported by rail--Performance inspection”

    • “Safety code for the inspection of packaging of dangerous goods transported by rail--Use appraisal” etc.

Legislative system of dangerous goods transport by road

  1. Department regulations

    • “Provisions on the Administration of Road Transport of Dangerous Goods” (MOT Order No.2-2013) is the current major departmental regulation on road transport of dangerous goods, effective since 1st. July 2013. On November 25, 2019, the Chinese MOT and five other departments jointly released the long-awaited official version of the Measures for Safety Administration of Road Transport of Dangerous Goods. The Measures later took effect on January 1, 2020.【4】

  2. Relevant standards

    • Technical standard: "Rules of transportation loading and unloading of dangerous goods by automobile" (JT618-2004).

    • Safety management standard: "Regulations concerning Road Transportation of Dangerous Goods" (JT/T617-2018). It uses ADR as a reference and comprises 7 parts, including: General Provisions (JT/T 617.1); Classification (JT/T 617.2); Index of Dangerous Goods Name and Transportation Requirement (JT/T 617.3); Provisions for the Use of Transport Packagings (JT/T 617.4); Consignment (JT/T 617.5); Provisions concerning the Conditions of Carriage, Loading, Unloading and Handling (JT/T 617.6); and Transport Conditions and Operational Requirements (JT/T 617.7).

    • Many other national standards and industry standards were referred directly by the two standards, such as “The vehicle mark for road transportation dangerous goods” (GB 13392-2005) and “Safety code for inspection of packaging of dangerous goods transported by road” (GB 19269-2009) etc.

    • Guidelines for Road Transport of Dangerous Goods Packed in EQ and LQ

Legislative system of dangerous goods transport by waterway and port

It became mandatory under SOLAS convention since 1st January, 2004, and has become the only global rule that guides the transport of dangerous goods by sea. 【5】Since 2nd October, 1982, China has adopted "international rules of order" on international air routes.

In the case of inland water transport, China uses its own administrative regulations. These include:

  1.  National laws and administrative regulations

  • Port: “Law of the People's Republic of China on Ports”; “Work Safety Law of the People's Republic of China”; “Regulations on the Safety Management of Hazardous Chemicals” etc.

  • Vessel: “Maritime Traffic Safety Law of the People's Republic of China”; “Marine Environment Protection Law of the People's Republic of China”; “Law of the People's Republic of China on Ports”; “Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Administration of Traffic Safety in Inland Rivers”; “Regulations on the Safety Management of Hazardous Chemicals”; “Regulation on the Prevention and Control of Vessel-induced Pollution to the Marine Environment” etc.

  1.  Departmental rules and regulations

  • a. Port【8】. The main department regulation of the port's dangerous goods safety management is the "Provisions on the Safety Management of Hazardous Goods at Ports" (MOT Order No. 27 of 2017), which has come into effect since October 15, 2017. The supporting normative documents and standards includes “Measures for the Supervision and Administration of Major Hazard Installations of Dangerous Goods at Port”; “List of port security facilities”; “Code for Safety Assessment Prior to Port Construction Project”; “Code for Safety Assessment upon Completion of Port Construction Project”; “Safety assessment guidebook for handling dangerous cargo in port” etc.

  • b. Vessel: The main supervision and regulation on the transportation of dangerous goods by watercraft is the "Provisions on Safety Supervision and Administration of Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Vessels" (Soliciting work of public comments for the revision ended on November 25, 2017)

  • c. Container [9]: Since large number of container have been used in DG transport by waterways, the "Provisions for Supervision and Control of the Transport of Package Dangerous Goods in Freight Containers" has been formulated.

  1.  Technical standards

  • “Rules of transportation of dangerous goods by waterway” (formerly MOT Order No. 10 of 1996) is one of the most important standards for the transport of dangerous goods by sea. In 2014, the Water Transport Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation, organized the amendment work of the "Provisions on the Administration of the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Water" on the basis of these rules and public to solicit public opinions. In addition, there are "Safety specification for the packing of dangerous cargo into container by marine transport" (JT672) and "The safety rules for handling dangerous goods container in port" (JT 397-2007) and other technical documents.

 Legislative system of dangerous goods transport by civil aviation

First of all【10】, on international transport, the international conventions including “Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material” by International Atomic Energy Agency; “Convention on International Civil Aviation- Annex 18, The Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air” have been adopted directly. “Convention on International Civil Aviation- Annex 18” deals with the air transport of dangerous goods, the provisions of which are implemented through the “Technical Instructions For The Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air”, the technical contents  of which is also developed from the UN "Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods". Considering the particularity of air transport, the technical requirements are stricter than that in UN RTDG, however, the core content of the classification, packaging and labeling of dangerous goods is basically the same as that of other modes of transport, so as to ensure the consistency in international transport.

The second level is the "Civil Aviation Law of the People's Republic of China"; the "Decision of the State Council on Establishing Administrative License for the Administrative Examination and Approval Items Really Necessary To Be Retained" (State Council Decree No. 412 of 2004) and other law formulated by the state. In addition, relevant administrative regulations including: "Regulations on the Safety Administration of Dangerous Chemicals", "Regulation on the Safety Administration of Explosives for Civilian Use", "Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material" and etc.

Thirdly, departmental rules and regulations include: "Provisions of the Civil Aviation Administration of China on the Administration of Transport of Dangerous Goods By Air". In order to supplement the regulations, more than ten notices and announcements have been issued, such as the “Measures for the Administration of Dangerous Goods Training Institutions”, “Measures for the Administration of the Identification Institutions for Conditions on Transport of Goods by Air”, “Measures for the administration of air transport training for dangerous goods” etc.

In addition, there is an air transport specific list of dangerous goods, “Catalogue of dangerous goods for air transport (2019)”. Regarding packaging, in addition to adopting international norms, industry standards such as “Standards for packaging and transport of DG COMAT”, “Tests for combination packaging and packages of dangerous goods in limited quantities (2014)” etc. were also implemented in China. Moreover, industry standards with regard to transport specifications includes “Standards for transport of lithium batteries by air (MH/T 1020-2013)”, “specifications for air transport of dangerous goods carried by passengers or crew (MH/T 1030-2010)” etc.

Classification and labelling of dangerous goods

In China's dangerous goods regulatory system, the technical contents were all developed from the UN "Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods Model Regulations". According to the latest classification standard "Classification and code of dangerous goods (GB6944 -2012)", dangerous goods in China can be divided into 9 different classes and different number of divisions based on the hazards they presented[1].

The so-called hazard class refers to one of nine classes that hazardous chemicals or articles are assigned to, according to the hazards or the primary hazards of the goods. Some classes are further subdivided into divisions, which supplement the hazard classes, to explain the distinction between different hazard characteristics under the same hazard class we can look at the example of explosives which are divided into six divisions, 1.1-1.6. However, the order of numbers of divisions does not represent the level of seriousness of the hazard. The following table demonstrate the definitions, briefs, divisions, labels and corresponding GHS classification for each hazard class, based on China GHS classification standards GB30000.2~29 and standard of "Classification and code of dangerous goods (GB6944 -2012)"【1】【12】, applies equally to other dangerous goods regulations. However, it is noteworthy that the classification of dangerous goods is not exactly overlapped with that of GHS. The following correspondence is based on the classification of dangerous goods and does not fully reflect all the GHS classification.

Class 1:   Explosives

Explosives refer to the substances or articles, which can cause damage to the surroundings due to the high temperature, pressure or gas produced under violent chemical reactions that occur under the influence of external factors such as heat, vibration, impact or friction. It also includes desensitized explosives and pyrotechnic   substances that has no mass explosion hazard, but have a lesser risk of projection or combusted or that produce only heat, light, loud noise, gas or smoke. Divided into six divisions as follows:

  • Division 1.1 Substances and articles which have a mass explosion hazard;

  • Division 1.2 Substances and articles which have a projection hazard but not a mass explosion hazard;

  • Division 1.3 Substances and articles which have a fire hazard and either a minor blast hazard or a minor projection hazard or both, but not a mass explosion hazard;

  • Division 1.4 Substances and articles which present no significant hazard;

  • Division 1.5 Very insensitive substances which have a mass explosion hazard;

  • Division 1.6 Extremely insensitive articles which do not have a mass explosion hazard.



Class 2 Gases

In the regulation of dangerous goods transport, gases refers to the substance which has a vapor pressure greater than 300 kPa at 50 ° C, or completely gaseous at 20 ° C and a standard pressure of 101.3 kPa.

Based on the primary hazard of the gas during transport, class 2 is divided into the following three divisions:

  • Division 2.1 Flammable gases

  • Division 2.2 Non-flammable, non-toxic gases

  • Division 2.3 Toxic gases




Class 3 Flammable liquids

The third class of dangerous goods includes flammable liquids and liquid desensitized explosives. Flammable liquids are liquid or liquid mixtures that emit flammable vapors when flash point is no higher than 60 °C or liquids (such as paints) that contain solids   in solution or suspension. Liquids with flash point between 35-60°C, is not deemed as flammable liquid when a negative result is obtained in continuous flammability test. Liquid desensitized explosives are explosive substances that are dissolved or suspended in water or other liquid substances, to form homogeneous liquid mixtures that suppress their explosive properties.

Flammable liquids are assigned to three different packing groups in accordance with the degree of danger.




Class 4 - Flammable solids; substances liable to spontaneous combustion; substances which, in contact with water, emit flammable gases

Class 4 deals with substances which, under the conditions of their transport, are flammable or may cause a fire, except those classified as explosives.

Division 4.1 Flammable solids

Division 4.2 Substances liable to spontaneous combustion

Division 4.3 Substances which in contact with water emit flammable gases







Class 5 - Oxidizing substances and organic peroxides

Class 5 Dangerous goods are chemicals which may not themselves burn, but may emit oxygen or radiate heat during transport to cause the combustion of other materials. can be divided into:

Division 5.1 Oxidizing substances

Division 5.2 Organic peroxides





Class 6 - Toxic and infectious substances

Class 6 is divided into:

6.1 Toxic substances

These are substances which, upon swallowing, inhalation or skin contact, may cause death or serious injury or harm to human health. However, it is noteworthy that the TDG classification criteria is not completely consistent with that in GHS regulation for this class.

6.2 Infectious substances

Infectious substances are substances that contain pathogen, may causes human or animal infection.



Class 7 - Radioactive material11

In TDG regulations, radioactive material mean a substance that is capable of emitting various types of radiation with radioactive concentrations and total radioactivity in the consignment exceeding specified values.

There is no further divisions to be made in Class 7, the corresponding UN number shall be adopted according to the characteristics of the material, where appropriate. In actual transport practice, the hazard level shall be estimated according to the level of radiation on the surface of the package and the transport index, and shall be marked with corresponding symbols.



Class 8 - Corrosive substances

Corrosive substances are those substances that can seriously damage the biological tissue with which they come into contact through chemical reactions or that can cause damage to other goods or vehicles if scattering from the packaging. This Class includes substances that are corrosive to animal skin, corrosive to metals and that with PH



Class 9 – Miscellaneous dangerous   substances and articles, including environmentally hazardous substances5

Class 9 are substances and articles that have potential risk during transportation but not covered by other classes. Including the following divisions:

  1. Substances or articles that do not subject to any other classes of hazard, but have evidence that their risk is in conformity with Part A of Chapter VII of the 1974 SOLAS Convention as amended.

  2. Liquid substances that are transported or delivered for transportation under the temperature ≥100℃, or solid substances that are transported or delivered for transportation under the temperature ≥240℃.

  3. Hazardous substances regulated by MARPOL 73/78 Annex III. (Marine pollutants)

  4. Genetically modified microorganisms and genetically modified organisms.



Regulations development【4】

Although dangerous goods regulations has been in practice for years in China, the legislative system for various modes of transportation are still not ideal. In recent years, the state is actively carrying out amendment work of related laws, regulations and standards, to improve the existing legal system, current regulations and standards and learning from the advanced experience in developed countries and regions such as Europe and the United States.

At present, the Ministry of Transport is taking the lead in organizing the amendments of the relevant laws and regulations on road transport of dangerous goods. The “Measures for the Safety Administration of Road Transport of Dangerous Goods”, which was jointly formulated by six ministries including MOT, MPS, SAWS,MIIT, AQSIQ, MEP, has ended its solicitation and is now the highest guidance for road transport of dangerous goods in China.

The "Measures" have perfected the exemption system for the transport of dangerous goods by road, the limited and excepted quantities requirements of dangerous goods. The “Measures” completely exemption criteria for the transport of small-packaged dangerous goods in China. The supporting guidance "Road Transport Guidelines for Limited Quantity of Dangerous Goods" and "Road Transportation Guidelines for Excepted Quantity of Dangerous Goods " will provide detailed technical guidance on the implementation of the specification. In addition, the “Measures for the Determination of Inspection Organization for Atmospheric Pressure Tankers and Tanks” and the “Inspection Rules for Atmospheric Pressure Tankers and Tanks” will also be issued as supporting documents for “the Measure”.

As a technical standard, the “Rules for road transportation dangerous goods” is also of great importance. It is derived from the European Union's road transport regulations ADR, meanwhile, some adjustments have been made in light of the current situation in China. The standard is very comprehensive and detailed, and will likely become a mandatory national standard.


【1】 " Classification and code of dangerous goods " (GB 6944-2012)

【2】 "Regulations on the Safety Management of Hazardous Chemicals"

【3】 "Safety technology and management of railway transport of dangerous goods " Sun Wenhong Sun, China Railway Press

【4】 "China Officially Unveils Measures for Safety Administration of Road Transport of Dangerous Goods", CL news

【5】 "International Maritime Dangerous Goods Regulations - Training Course" Dalian Dangerous Goods Transportation Research Center

【6】, Ministry of Transport


【8】, Department of Legal Affairs

【9】 “Outline of the supervision of dangerous goods container”, Qinhuangdao West Harbor Marine Department, April 2015

【10】“Development History and Management Status of Dangerous Goods Transportation in China Civil Aviation” Qian Li, China Civil Aviation Science and Technology Research Institute

【11】UN RTDG revision 19